Monday, September 01, 2008

As the stream of bad economic data grows ever wider, one does begin to wonder what 'motor' will replace construction to push or pull Spain out of the recession/depression/slump that has taken us from the sunny uplands to the trough of despond in little more than a year. We all know - because we're told every day- that things are going to get worse in the near to mid term but it would be good to hear what is going to help in the longer term. I guess it isn't going to be massively increased tourism or amazingly productive structural changes in the Spanish economy. So, what? Are we going to have to keep our belts tightened for quite a while? Until property becomes fashionable again, perhaps.

The other thing one wonders about is whether any contingency planning at all was done at the time it was clear - to some of us at least - that an artificial, property-driven boom simply couldn't go on for ever. If President Zapatero's government did any of this, they're proving masterful at hiding the evidence. Perhaps they were too distracted by their campaign for a second term of office to read any of the runes.

Meanwhile, Madrid is now reducing cash transfers to the regions, just as these are suffering a huge drop in tax revenue from both the construction of new properties and the sale of old ones. Not to mention the abolition by Madrid of the annual wealth tax that went to them. And, in Galicia's case, the reduction of gift and inheritance taxes to bring it into line with other regions. It's little wonder, then, that town councils are beginning to talk about rises in rubbish collection and water bills and in the annual municipal charges. Just what you need when your mortgage is rising every month and inflation continues to be way above the European average. Perhaps the town halls will cut back on their public works expenditure. Though one suspects not.

There are some Spaniards who think sensitivity to racism has gone too far in the Anglo sphere. And there are some non-Spaniards who think it hasn't gone far enough in Spain. Both seem to be right to me. Here's an article on a current development in the London police force which ranks as a good example of Anglo excess. Given my well-rehearsed view on the madness of British society, I was always going to be impressed by a comment that "the latest effort in that direction is so utterly insane that it fair takes the breath away."

Statistics have just been published on the prostitution industry here. The table of establishments by region is headed by Andalucia. Followed by Valencia, Madrid, Castile La Mancha, Galicia, etc. etc. Given the respective populations, this must put us at or near the head [sorry] of the list. Fame at last. Interestingly, at least one city is trying to do something about this stain on Spanish society. In Sevilla, the council has started a poster campaign against prostitution with the slogan ‘Are you worth so little you have to pay? Prostitution exists because you do.' I predict zilch impact. But it's good to see it happening.

Another list in today's papers tells us which EU members are good at ignoring the rules on the internal market. To no one's great surprise [I guess], the top 3 are Italy, Spain and France. Then comes Greece and that other great maker of the rules, Germany. Wonderful. I'm taken back to the regular injunction of my father's - Don't do as I do. Do as I say. For which I blame my attitude to authority.

Galicia: Matters non-prostitutional

It's reported the central government is trying to enlist the support of nationalist groups in its ongoing battle with Cataluña over a new model of regional finance. Which makes sense. And possibly explains why not only the Xunta President but also President Zapatero accepted the demand of the Galician Nationalist Party that the election not be brought forward from next March. The depressing end result is that we'll now have an unofficial [illegal?] six-month campaign instead of the usual unofficial [illegal?] three-month campaign. We had the local-born President of the Opposition in town over the weekend, following President Z's flying visit last week. Presumably the diaries of both of them reflected the universally-held belief that the elections advance was a done deal.

Not surprisingly, the BNG President is acting like the cock of the walk. His response to his coalition partner's request that he show some loyalty and stop electioneering was to say he wasn't going to take the request into account. I guess he's betting on some deals with Madrid that will favour his vote in March. But what if the BNG sees its share reduce but nonetheless gets back into power as a coalition partner with the PSOE? Or even the PP? Even more tail-wagging? Or a change in the elections law? My bet is on the former.

Anyway, it's already a good week in more important ways. The sun is still shining, the tourists have left town and I've managed to download the first song I ever bought on vinyl - Nut Rocker by, of course, B Bumble and The Stingers. Nostalgia time.

Finally - The latest bush . . .


Tom Watkinson said...

Colin, I'm afraid I have to take issue with you on your allusion to a recent development within the British police, namely the setting-up of a National Black Police Association.

To start with, I'm not sure why you chose to mention this in your blog, ostensibly concerned with current affairs in Spain and more specifically Galicia. But you did and so I'm going to take it up too.

If such an association has been formed and has attracted widespread membership from police officers from ethnic minorities in Britain, there is probably a good reason for this. The reason is probably that such officers feel they suffer discrimination within the force due to the colour of their skin.

The police in Britain have a far from satisfactory reputation for racial sensitivity, proven over the years by successive cases, of which the botched investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence was a prime example.

Although attempts have been made to step up recruitment of black and Asian officers in recent years, the fact remains that the ethnic minorities are significantly under-represented in the police force, compared with their representation in British society as a whole. We have to ask ourselves why this continues to be the case.

As you can judge for yourself, I'm far from being a typical Daily Telegraph reader and still less so one of the Mail on Sunday.


Victor said...

I can only echo what Tom has already stated. Tom Utley has obviously never read the enquiry report, otherwise he would understand the reasons why Sir William Mcpherson made the comments that he did, and I find his personal commments about Sir William McPherson extremely ignorant.

Colin said...

Tom & Victor,

1. I comment on the similarities/differences between Spanish and British Societies. Hence the British society Label on the right [with 122 entries!]. Plus it's Thoughts from, not about Galicia.

2. I seriously dislike the Daily Mail but TU used to write for the DT and this article was cited in it on Sunday, I think.

3. The point of TU's article - as I see it - is that it cannot be right that there has been discrimination against the guy claiming it and that such a specious claim can only have arisen, ironically, because of what he considers to be excessive steps taken to eradicate something which he doesn't believe exists - the infamous 'institutional racism'.

4. I very much doubt that TU would ever deny that there have been, still are and will be examples of racism in the police force. His point is that things have gone too far.

5. The 'recent development' I referred to was not the formation of the NBPA but the suing of Mr Blair, for racism. Sorry if this wasn't clear.

6. Judging from the recent developments at the DT [loss of writers, news slant, emphasis on celebrity] the 'typical' [or at least targeted] reader must now be around 15 and not very bright. Hence my concern at you taking it up, Tom. Time to drop it, as I am trying to do.

mike the trike said...

to tom - Discrimination comes in many forms and racial discrimination is no worse than any other. It can be hidden under the title of class where price keeps out those on a lower income. Paying first class on the train doesn’t get you to your destination any faster than the person who pays the lowest fare but it does mean you don’t have to mix with them for whatever reason you like. Regardless of your colour you can suffer racial discrimination as many will tell you when they immigrated to another country. I was born in England and as a child immigrated to Canada where I received plenty of racial and religious discrimination. When I later returned to live in England as an adult I was treated like a foreigner in my own country. I answered an advert for a room in London and the landlady told me to learn to read because the advert said no Irish. I soon found out it was not good to let people in England know I was Catholic either because that got me a lot of abuse as well. Most people just get on with their life and let it go but blacks and Asians love the racial card. I saw that many times at my work place and there were several thousand employees working at one time together. We had people from all over the world and we had to be accountable for our work and any mistakes were pointed out to us. Quite often the phrase you’re picking on me because I’m coloured came into play because they just couldn’t accept any critisism or acknowledgement that they had made an error. I worked for more than 20 years with these people and after awhile you begin to see what makes them tick and see why they form themselves into groups avoiding whites. You wrote “Although attempts have been made to step up recruitment of black and Asian officers in recent years, the fact remains that the ethnic minorities are significantly under-represented in the police force, compared with their representation in British society as a whole. We have to ask ourselves why this continues to be the case.” No, we don’t have to ask ourselves because we already know that they don’t want to integrate for fear of losing their identity and becoming a nobody like the average Briton.

Tom Watkinson said...

@ Mike: trying to relativise racial prejudice as you do is almost as offensive as the prejudice itself.

First of all, your first-class/second-class rail fare analogy doesn't stand up to scrutiny. If I pay more to travel in a first-class compartment, I'm probably paying for the extra seat comfort, leg-room etc. and certainly not to avoid mixing with the second-class proles. Maybe it's different for you?

Secondly, racial discrimination is based on the premise that certain individuals deserve inferior treatment to others, based on purely intrinsic criteria concerning the person's physical make-up, ie. skin colour. If you find this more acceptable than other types of discrimination, that's your problem.

Thirdly, I'm British, I've lived abroad like you and yes, I can say that I've experienced a modicum of 'discrimination' because of this. However, I certainly wouldn't go as far as you do by putting this on the same level as racial prejudice. Unless you're black yourself, I don't think you can begin to understand what this implies in everyday life.

Finally, you trot out the all-too familiar "they've all got a chip on their shoulder" argument. What makes you put all black people into the same box (for example, 'they' can't take criticism, 'they' don't want to integrate, etc, etc.)? Have you seriously thought about that and what it reveals about your own feelings?

mike the trike said...

tom - Being a foreigner in my own country put me in a better position than most in being very close to blacks and Asians because they didn't see me as a typical Briton. I have been able to make close friends and listen to their grievances without prejudice. It may shock you to know they have their own racial discrimination. I have a couple of Indian friends from work who were born in Trinidad and there were also blacks from Trinidad at work but they wouldn't sit with us at lunchtime and kept to their own. There was also a Jamaican girl whose only friend was a girl from Singapore and I asked her why she was shunned by the other blacks and it was simply because she was Jamaican. I like Germans but I don't like Frenchmen so I am racist and I don't deny that. My aunt married a black man from Barbados so we have a mixed race family. My uncle Jim being a black didn't have a chip on his shoulder because he didn't allow himself to get trapped in a ghetto and my cousin has fitted in well and leads a normal life in England. Those who keep themselves segregated have got a chip on their shoulder. Ask my uncle Jim.

Victor said...


You have made some very interesting & valid points, but you also gave your self away with the comments about black & asian people playing the racial card and the comment about your uncle Jim not having a chip on his shoulder. You seem to tar all black & asian people with the same brush. These are typical blinkered/narrow minded & sterotypical views that I have not heard in along time from people about Johnny foreigner taking our jobs & women etc.
I have to say that I am amazed that you have any ethnic minority friends with your attitude.
You obviously have some issues....
On second thought is this a troll?

mike the trike said...

victor - I suggest you get your head out of the sand and have a look around you. Don't fret about Johnny foreigner because he is thick skinned and will survive no matter what the odds are or what is thrown at him. I know what fears people have and why they become racist. I am narrow minded because I don't get out much. What do I need friends for when I have so many enemies to keep me active.

Tom Watkinson said...

Never a truer word than said in jest...

Victor said...

Amen to that one............